Sunday 30th of August, Akuffo Addo gave his 16th address to the nation. In the address, President Akuffo Addo announced that Kotoka International Airport will reopen and resume operations from Tuesday, 1st September 2020.
“Fellow Ghanaians, I am glad to announce that Kotoka International Airport will re-open and resume operations from Tuesday, 1st September 2020. This decision has been communicated to international airlines across the world” he said. Ghana’s airport reopening reopening and resumption of duties is welcoming news for those involved in the aviation and tourism industry.
Aviation is crucial to all sectors of an economy most especially trade and tourism. To have an insight as to how important this news is for the trade and tourism industry, it’s imperative we take a look at the benefits of the aforementioned industries before COVID-19, and how the coronavirus came to reshape the industry.
Impact on Aviation
In 2018, a ministry of finance report indicated that Ghana Airport Company Limited collected revenue of GHc475.56 million through airport taxes alone which was a more than 35% increase from 2017.
In 2019 during the Year of Return Celebrations, the country witnessed a huge number of foreigners mostly African-Americans which included celebrities flocking into the country. According to the minister of tourism, arts, and culture, Barbara Oteng-Gyasi, the year-long program provided Ghana with an economic boost of almost US$2 billion.
The aviation and tourism industry is also an industry employs many individuals. The industry has provided job security and a source of livelihood to thousands of Ghanaians.
However, all of these benefits came under the threat of the Coronavirus virus. As of May, African Airlines were said to have lost over $400 million. Airlines such as Emirates, KLM, and Delta Airlines temporarily suspended flights to the country. This saw a decline in the tourism industry since tourists could no longer enter the country.
Simon Allotey, the director-general of the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority, estimated revenue loss by 20 percent due to COVID-19 earlier in the year.
The hospitality industry such as hotels and restaurants witnessed a downward slip in their operations during the period of COVID-19. Some hotels and restaurants started to lay off workers as there was a drop in bookings.
Tourist attraction sites also witnessed a steep decline in patronage since the majority of the tourist sites are patronized by foreigners. This led to massive losses in revenue in the tourism industry.
The Welcoming News
As the border by air reopens, the aviation and tourism industry can begin to witness some growth. Individuals who temporarily lost their jobs especially in the aviation industry might get back to their source of livelihood, however, with the tourism industry that remains to be seen.
The growth may not be significant as some countries across the world are experiencing a second wave of the virus while some others have their borders closed. With this still in play, the aviation and tourism industry might not be able to recoup from the blow of the Coronavirus soon enough, as they depends mainly on the influx of foreigner.
However insignificant, the sector is progressing through, and this progress will gradually lead to growth.
The $150 Testing Fee
Following the reopening of the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) to international passenger traffic after five months of closure, the Government of Ghana has stated that all travelers coming into the country by air will pay $150 (¢868) for a Covid-19 test.
Defending the $150 fee, the Deputy Minister for Health Dr. Benard Oko-Boye said “The cost of the test will not put unnecessary difficulty or burden on the passenger. We looked at what is being charged across the globe so when you go to a place like Zimbabwe you pay about $210 for a test. In China, you pay about $150 for a test and they are even doing PCR which is a very good test that identifies the virus itself. But in China after paying $150 you have to wait for about 6 hours average before you get results. Also remember that anyone coming into Ghana must have a negative PCR test and, on the average, in Europe, if you enter a lab to do that, it is about 100 euros.
Here at the airport, we are interested in two things; the test must be very specific, which means it must tell us if you have the virus and if it says it’s negative then you pose no threat to Ghanaians. We were also interested in how long it takes to get the results. And with these two indicators, we now had to decide whether US$150 of having the two most important requirements met is reasonable or not.”
Yaw Kwakwa, Director of the Ghana Airports Company Limited said “It takes a maximum of 30 minutes for a particular passenger to go through the entire process and get his or her results.”
Akuffo Addo in his speech said to ensure the re-opening of the airports would not lead to the importation or resurgence of the virus in the country, the following measures have been taken and duly communicated to airlines
1. “Any passenger arriving in Ghana must be in possession of a negative COVID-19 PCR test result from an accredited laboratory in the country of origin. The test should have been done not more than seventy-two (72) hours before the scheduled departure from the country of origin. All airlines have been instructed to ensure compliance with this directive for all passengers wishing to travel to Ghana, and those airlines who fail in this regard will be duly sanctioned;
2. disembarking passengers must do so wearing face masks;
3. upon disembarking from the aeroplane, each passenger will undergo a mandatory COVID-19 test at the airport terminal, at a fee to be borne by the passenger. The test result will be available within thirty (30) minutes;
4. children under the ages of five (5) will not be required to undergo testing at the airport
5. passengers, who test positive for COVID-19, will be handled by the health authorities for further clinical assessment and management;
6. passengers, who test negative, can, thereupon, enter Ghana to go about their lawful activities, and will be advised to continue to observe COVID-19 safety precautions during their stay in Ghana.”
We hope these strict protocols will be implemented fervently to prevent an outbreak.